Japan is one of the most desired TEFL destination for ESL teachers to start their teaching career. Let us look into what is needed and how to find a right teaching job in Japan. While there are endless places in the world to go and teach English, why choose Japan?
- Japan is clean, safe, beautiful, scenic and seasonally glorious
- Public transport runs on time, and the country is generally well-organized
- Japanese people are polite and friendly if you need help
- The students are often quiet, shy, sweet and obliging
- There are several visa options
- Loads of jobs – Yes, there are plenty of teaching jobs available
- If you need more reasons, read our article listing the Top 9 Reasons to Teach in Japan
Requirements to teach English in Japan
Every country/school/branch you apply to for a TEFL job will have different specifications. Let’s take a look at some general rules that apply when teaching in Japan:
Visa – Yes, you’ll need a special visa to work in Japan (details below).
Degree – Yes, most schools require you to have been to university, but it doesn’t usually matter what your subject of study was. If you haven’t got a degree, you can still come to Japan on a Working Holiday visa and work as a freelancer, which could be a jump board into a professional school.
TEFL Qualification – No, this isn’t always necessary. While some school require a certificate, others just say that it works in your favor if you’re qualified. Some schools actually prefer it if you’re unqualified because they have their own in-house training.
Experience – Not really an essential factor. Just like having a TEFL qualification, work experience isn’t always necessary. Having experience (paid or voluntary) can work in your favor, but it’s also not mandatory with many schools.
Speaking Japanese – No, very few schools require you to have Japanese language ability to apply, though do mention if you do 日本語がわかる. Point of interest… if you do speak Japanese, don’t let your students know – they’ll try and get away with speaking less English, and if you ‘blow your cover’ then you won’t be able to ‘listen in’ on their conversations! It’s a great party trick, particularly with small kids!
Sense of adventure – Definitely!
Visa details to teach English in Japan
Working Visa – If you have already secured a job in Japan, you will apply for a Working Visa as an ‘Instructor’. Your employer will send you a ‘letter of invitation’, which what you will need to get the visa through. You can’t get this visa without a job, and if a company tries to hire you without offering you this letter, don’t choose them!
Working Holiday Visa – Tricks of the trade; not many people know about this special visa. It’s a great way to get into the country if you don’t have a job already. The one-year Working Holiday Visa has a few limitations:
- This visa is mainly for holiday makers but allows a certain amount of work to be undertaken by the holder (part-time, basically)
- You must be between 18 and 30 years old
- Not all countries are offered this visa, so check if you can apply
Choosing this option means you can come to Japan for one-year on a freelance basis – perhaps pick up freelance teaching jobs if you’re planning on moving around, or a part-time job if the school can hire you on that visa. In that time, if you decide you want to stay longer, get hired in-country by another school and then they will switch your visa to a full-time working one. This is exactly what I did when I moved to Japan – after about 3 months working part-time, I secured a full-time role and switched my visa.
Tourist Visa – Note: you are not allowed to work on a tourist visa. Bear that in mind! This is just a ticket into the country for 90/180 days, during which time you can find a job and get your visa switched. It’s easy to do, but risky as there isn’t a guarantee you’ll find work before your visa is up.
For more information on visas for Japan, visit the website of the Japanese Embassy in your own country.
Considerations before you start your job search:
Before you leap into your job search, consider these points. They’ll help you to narrow down your search before you get going:
- Do you want to teach full-time, part-time or freelance?
- Do you want to teach kids/teenagers/adults/both?
- Do you mind which location you go to? City/countryside?
- Do you want to plan your own lessons or have materials provided?
- Pure teaching role or ALT?
- Do you have any special skills? Could you teach business English/holiday English/English for doctors/pilots etc?
How to find a job
In this section we’ll look at job boards and top choices, and in the next section we’ll look at individual schools.
GaijinPot is one of the most popular ways for foreigners to find a job in Japan. Specify what kind of job, locations for work, where you currently reside… endless opportunities.
TEFL.com allows you to search by country for your perfect role, and they tend to showcase the big, chain companies rather than independent schools.
Dave’s ESL Café doesn’t have Japan-specific job board, so you’ll need to set your preferences to filter out other countries. This is the place to go if you’d like to wind up at some small, independent school in a weird, far-flung location – but be warned: there is a lot of rubbish on there to be waded through, and look out for sharks that are offering ‘too good to be true’ or weird deals. I was once approached by a school in China that mentioned ‘teaching in your underwear’… seriously! Always check out the reputation of somewhere you plan to teach. But Dave’s is well worth a look because there are so many jobs there!
The JET program is one of most popular choices for new teachers in Japan. The role is an ALT role (assistant language teacher) and has far less pressure and responsibility than a pure teaching role, making it a top choice for newbie teachers. Check out the list of requirements on their website – the application process is lengthy and competitive so don’t waste your time if you aren’t going to pass the basic checklist.
As well as going through the usual job sites, you can also contact schools directly. Many chain schools hire year-round and even have recruitment events abroad. Here are a few of the big-name places you should look into:
- AEON have been running since the early 70’s and teach both kids and adults. They offer worldwide interviews (America, UK, Australia etc) as well as hiring in country.
- Interac have also been going since the early 70’s, but they hire ALT’s – assistant language teachers. Staff will be working in elementary, junior high and high schools, often travelling to different locations.
- Tact have been going since the mid 80’s and is the umbrella company that covers Winbe, Kids Duo and Kids Duo International, as well as other Japanese child education schools. An expanding company, they have branches across Japan and have lots of work in Tokyo.
- ECC has been running since the 60’s and offers a two-week training program to new staff. Lessons are for both kids and adults and last 30-60 minutes, and they have competitive rates of pay.
- GABA teachers 1-to-1 lessons to adults, often English for business or travel, and they use a CLT approach (communicative language teaching). Schedules can be tailored to your availability, and payment is done on the ‘belt’ system where you earn more as you gain experience – earn between 1,500 and 2,200 Yen per lesson.
- Hello Sensei is a freelancing platform where you can create a profile, set your own lesson timetables and pick your own students. This is a great option for someone on a working holiday visa who just wants a part-time job. Meet students through the platform and then meet up for lessons in a public place.
Average Salary for teaching English in Japan
Salary varies greatly depending on location. For a full-time teaching post, you can expect anything from 220,000 Yen to 280,000 Yen per month, with 250,000 being the usual rate. Tokyo jobs often pay higher than other places. Working life also depends on the job – some schools are Monday-Friday 9-5, but many will have you working evenings and weekends.
Important things to remember in your interview:
- Be polite. Japanese people are super-duper polite and you should try to come across as well as you can.
- Wear a suit. Seriously. Even if you’re applying for a kindergarten role, wear a suit – many teaching jobs in Japan will require you to wear one!
- Show that you’ve done your research and have plenty of questions to ask.
- If you’re interviewing in person, bow. If you don’t know how to do a traditional greeting bow, research it!
- Smile and be positive as well as showing you’re serious – this is really important to Japanese people.
We’ve included lots of information, so don’t be overwhelmed – just pick and choose what is applicable to you. There are always teaching opportunities in Japan, so do your research, be flexible, and prepare yourself for the adventure of a lifetime!